February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans.

But we can’t recognize black history without looking at the many wrongs blacks have faced including slavery, Jim Crow and general racism and discrimination. One inequity that often gets overlooked today is the burden tobacco takes on blacks.

Blacks in Wisconsin smoke at a rate of 36 percent, double the state average. One contributing factor is the heavy amount of advertising in black communities. A recent study found that compared to white affluent neighborhoods, black neighborhoods are twice as likely to have advertising within 1,000 feet of a school. Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of the black population uses menthol tobacco products, compared to 20 percent of the general population.

Black History Month isn’t just about studying history, but making it. The Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition is working toward reducing tobacco related disparities, including reducing menthol use by the black community.

To get involved locally, go to www.tfcdc.com and use the "Join Now" button. As a reminder, all tobacco users can get free help to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW.

Bev Jambois, Sun Prairie, Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition